You’ll often hear New Yorkers identify themselves as New Yorkers before Americans, Brooklynites before Americans—probably vegans before Americans. Yes, you know who you are. Perhaps this hesitation to fully embrace Americanness actually results from a disconnect in cultural values (but more realistically, probably from the lack of space here), but it’s true. The high school football, outdoor cookouts, and outwardly zealous American pride so synonymous with “American” culture don’t always burn as bright here.
This is certainly not true on the Fourth though, and we mean that figuratively and literally, because as early as the first afternoon hours, New Yorkers throughout the boroughs have always made their way to their favorite viewing spots for the annual Fourth of July fireworks.
This year’s sky show will be set off from barges along the East River once again (yay!), favoring viewers in Brooklyn and on the east side of Manhattan (sorry Jersey :/ ). As per usual, if you hope to see the explosive display of flying colors in the flesh, you should have a plan, so you’re not subjected to suffocating crowds and a less-than spectacular view.
With that in mind, here are this year’s picks for the best places to celebrate American Independence, get a view of the fireworks, and actually enjoy it.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
With a waterfront view framed by the Brooklyn Bridge and the lower Manhattan skyline, there are few other vantage points that’ll do the City this much justice. And because of that, you won’t be the only one with the idea to post up here for the fireworks. In fact, that’ll be very, very far from the case. That being said, if you’re sincerely committed to getting a great view of the sky show and are okay with getting a little close with a whole lot of people, this is your spot. If not, consider this the gentlest of warnings.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Promenade is another cult favorite spot that only the diehard viewers will dare flock to. If you’re up for the challenge of finding the perfect fireworks vantage point, brace yourself for hoards of people that’ll likely keep you trapped on the Promenade for much of the afternoon and evening. Gorgeous views at no cost at all—except maybe your sanity.
If you’re in need of some self-love and are willing to do some splurging this Independence Day, consider celebrating with Fornino Pizza. By purchasing a ticket, you get access to an open bar, a dinner buffet with continuous pizza, as well as a waterfront view of the pyrotechnics from Pier 6. This is your one-stop shop for an all-inclusive Fourth of July experience. More info here.
Grand Ferry Park
This view from this waterfront park might not compete with those in Brooklyn Heights, as it is between the northern and southern barges. But if your goal is more in line with avoiding crowds of people rather then getting the clearest, fullest view of the show, perhaps this is your spot. 50 Rivers Street, Williamsburg
East River State Park
Similar story here as at Grand Ferry Park. Stunning waterfront views of Manhattan’s skyline, but don’t expect top grade views of the fireworks. There are plenty more advantages to watching the show from here though: plenty of grass and likely a far more digestible crowd than at places like the Promenade. Life lesson: you can’t have everything. But sometimes, you might not even want it.
Brooklyn Grange Flagship Farm
Brooklyn Grange operates two rooftop urban farms, one by the Navy Yard and the other in Long Island City. Both are hosting events for the Fourth, but tickets for the Brooklyn event have sold out. Solution? Head over to Brooklyn Grange’s Flagship Farm in Queens. For $75, you get a meal and drinks by Butcher Bar, Big Alice Brewing, Mouton Noir Wines. Good food, booze, and rooftop views? Hard to pass up. 37-18 Northern Boulevard, Long Island City
As one of Brooklyn’s naturally highest elevated points, Sunset Park is without a doubt a perfect location to get a view of the sky as Macy’s lights it up this July Fourth. Here, you’ll get to see the fireworks as well as more of the sky, since you’ll be farther away from the East River barges. You’ll also probably be in the company of a lower key crowd, so you’ll actually be able to breathe. Who needs the waterfront? Not us.
If you’ve got a roof with a view, or a friend with a roof with a view, you probably already have your fireworks viewing plans on lock. You roof folk have it lucky: roll out some blankets, bring up some snacks, and revel in company devoid of strangers with big cameras and back sweat!
This list has thus far covered the best spots to watch the famed Macy’s annual fireworks, but we shouldn’t forget that there’s a whole other light show going on down at Coney Island. There’s certainly less hype surrounding this show, but having the beach, Ruby’s, and Nathan’s hot dogs at your disposal makes up for it and more.